Dorothy “Dottie” Dillard (3 Aug 1923 – 6 May 2015) was one of the cornerstone figures of The Nashville Sound of the 1950s and 1960s. As a member of The Anita Kerr Quartet, Dillard won two Grammy Awards and sang back-up for a who’s-who of Nashville music.
Dorothy was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. She attended Drury College where she began her singing career with classmates and sorority sisters, appearing at O'Reilly General Hospital, Red Cross and the USO and receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945.
After graduation she was invited to audition for a radio program in Nashville. Soon she was an established singer performing with Snookie Lanson, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Jimmy Dean and other artists.
In 1949 she joined The Anita Kerr Quartet as the alto vocalist alongside soprano Kerr. Above is
In 1951 they signed to Decca Records. Producers Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were soon using them as studio background singers. Dottie also cut some solo singles for Dot during the mid 50’s.
The Anita Kerr Quartet and The Jordanaires helped to soften the country sound and make it possible for records to become pop as well as country hits. It is estimated that Dillard sang on one quarter of all the records made in Nashville in the 1960s.
The Quartet also gained fame under its own name. In 1956, the group commuted to New York and won on the nationally televised Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show. They subsequently became regularly featured vocalists on it.
Back in Nashville, the group had a string of releases on Decca and RCA Victor, including “Rockin’ Chair,” “Once in a While” and “You and the Night and Music.” Billed as “The Little Dippers,” they scored a top-10 pop hit with “Forever” in 1960. In 1962-63, the singers made the lower reaches of the pop hit charts with “Joey Baby” and “Waiting for the Evening Train.”
The Anita Kerr Quartet was part of the ground-breaking 1964 country package tour of Europe alongside Jim Reeves, Bobby Bare and Chet Atkins.
During her successful career Dorothy and the quartet sang background vocals for many recording artists. Among the hits featuring her vocals are Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958) and “I’m Sorry” (1960), Burl Ives’ “Holly, Jolly Christmas” (1964), Dottie West’s Grammy-winning “Here Comes My Baby” (1964), Bobby Bare’s Grammy-winning “Detroit City” (1963), Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” (1960) and “Running Scared” (1961), Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” (1957) and “The Three Bells” by The Browns (1959), which was the first Nashville Sound record to hit No. 1 on the pop charts.
Although the Quartet recorded on its own as well as as back-up, they also cut a number of tracks under other names. As Anita & th'So-And-Sos, they had a minor hit with "Joey Baby."
In 1966 the Quartet won two Grammys, one for best vocal group on the album, "We Dig Mancini" and the second for best vocal group on a religious album, "George Beverly Shea Sings Southland Favourites With The Anita Kerr Quartet".
Dillard was a standout in the recording industry as one of the Anita Kerr singers. She made a host of pop and country stars sound better with her backup vocals during the '50s, '60s and '70s. She even won a Grammy with Bob Dylan for his first album.
After a 36 year career in Nashville Dorothy returned to Springfield in 1981 to care for her 90-year old mother. She was a member of the Drury Women's Auxiliary, Pi Beta Phi, Home Decor Art Group and was a docent for Gray/Campbell Farmstead.
Dorothy died of natural causes in Springfield on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 aged 91. (Info edited from legacy.com & numerous sources)